Case Study: Launching an Online Writing Course

online course marketing Dec 18, 2023

I published my memoir about a year and a half ago, after decades of yearning, hoping, starting, stopping, whining, and putting pen to paper in business writing, feature articles, poetry, and short story form. In simpler words, there are many types of writing besides memoir form that I focused on. Over the years, I collected over 75 essays and short-form stories. Covid arrived in 2020, and that was my way in. I committed, and a year and a half later, my book Under My Skin — Drama, Trauma & Rock ’n’ Roll became an Amazon bestseller in 9 categories. But how did I manifest that?

I framed the value of my story on vulnerability and honesty (to the best of my subjective recollection, of course). I wrote an outline and dissected films and books to uncover the MDQ — main dramatic question. Then, once I found it, I attacked each chapter with a trio of questions: what’s the problem, what is the cause, and how did the character(s) resolve it?

Next, I chose a title. The main title was Under My Skin. That came quickly as I listened to rock music from the 1970s to inspire me. The story mostly takes place during that decade. The Rolling Stones Under My Thumb and Sinatra’s classic I’ve Got You Under My Skin sort of came together, but it needed more. More oomph to explain to readers the “feelings” and experiences that occurred Under My Skin. Then I toyed forever with Drama, Trauma, Drama, Rock, Rock, and Roll, etc., until after several iterations and market testing with my friends and those on my mailing list, the title was born.

I’m not writing out all the steps to publishing the book, as that is laborious. I want to discuss launching the online writing course and why that was a natural next step.


The natural next step for me was to share my knowledge of the self-publishing journey with other authors, especially ones like me, in total darkness about the nature of the publishing industry and what all that entails — from choosing a distribution method to marketing to sales, promotion, and other commitments. When I started to write the book, I took it one step at a time. When I began to write a course, I did the same and used the same skills.


Knowing your audience is the most significant indicator of your venture’s viability. If you appeal to “everyone,” you lose; you won’t. You lose if you don’t know who your product or service appeals to and what they will and won’t pay. You lose if told that social media alone will do the trick. Wrong, it doesn’t. It’s one part of a multi-faceted wheel that keeps turning.

I sold thousands of books over less than two years, but I needed to drill down who my core audience was. How would I do that on a shoestring budget that did not allow advertising? Anyway, I’ve never been a big fan of advertising since clicks and pay-per-views do not indicate actual sales. So how could I sell these new courses?


I discovered the core group of readers through in-person book signings, surveys to my mailing list, and retailers like record shops and booksellers. I applied the exact verbiage and lingo to attract similar customers to my online course. I relied on word-of-mouth (WOM) and newsletters and started a YouTube channel, Slowly but surely, sales trickled in.

The promise to yourself is also a signature of success. If you believe in what you are doing, but external signs suggest otherwise, it may be time to self-reflect and evaluate your inner dialogue. I found that looking at myself through an unfettered lens allowed me to carefully maneuver away from self-imposed psychological blockages into the realm of the free-swagging leg, kicking child-like wonder. That wonder attracted more customers because my inner dialogue spoke to their outer expression. When the outer and inner are aligned, your business flourishes.